Mountain State Monday: Sinks of Gandy

West Virginia is no stranger to caves as our natural mountain landscape is home to many of them.  Some of the more intricate caves, or caverns, have even been commercialized and are open for tours.  However one of the most intriguing caves to me is one I had heard about for years but never visited until recently due to its rural location.  And that cave is known as the Sinks of Gandy in the beautiful countryside in Randolph County.

sinks3
You will not find the Sinks of Gandy on any tourist brochure, nor will you find it located on a map.  In fact, if you look on a map, the only marker is a creek that disappears, only to reappear an inch later.  To know it’s there, you have to know someone who’s been there — that’s how I found out about it.  Modern history says that the Sinks of Gandy were discovered in the 1780s and named for landowner Uriah Gandy.  There is nothing overly unique about the Sinks, aside from it being a natural cave that which Gandy Creek flows under.  The large entrance is approximately 40 feet wide and the smaller “dry” entrance is 30 feet wide but only 15 feet high.   Additionally, the length of the cave is walkable with terrain varying from large rooms 100-feet in diameter to tight A-frame passages.  There’s even a small lake for those trained to take a dip.  Because of this, the Sinks are a favorite of amateur cave explorers and  curious people like me who wish to see it what all the fuss is about.

There are a handful of ways to access the Sinks, but the easiest is arguably from Route 33/55 East between Elkins and Harman.  Coming from Elkins, turn right onto County Route 29, marked by a small brown National Parks Service sign announcing a turnoff for Spruce Knob and Spruce Knob Lake.  Follow this road through the small towns of Job and Whitmer, continuing once it turns to gravel as you enter the Seneca Creek Backcountry/Spruce Knob Recreation Area (bonus tip: along the way you will pass some excellent fishing locations so keep that in the back of your mind if that’s your thing).  Continue driving until you reach an intersection for Forest Route 1 and Gandy-Osceola Road at which point you will drive straight onto Gandy-Osceola Road (if you take FR 1, you will drive up to Spruce Knob Lake and eventually Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia).   Soon the forest will give way to farm land indicating you are nearly there.  Keep driving until you see the gate pictured below — this is the gateway (sorry for the pun, but I had to) to the large opening of the Sinks.  You can’t see them from the road, but as you will notice in the pictures below, there is a faint walking trail through the field that takes you down to the river.

sinks1
sinks2
sinks9

The second entrance to the Sinks of Gandy, or the dry entrance, is accessible off Gandy-Osceola Road as well.  If you made it to the gate previously pictured, you’ve already passed it.  This signal is also a gate, but rather a small one made from two slabs of wood in the middle of flat fence.  If you find this gate, there is no designated path to walk on but it will take you to the dry entrance which is the easiest to venture into.  The only reason we found the dry entrance is because on our way out, we saw three men with head lamps hopping the gate and we ended up joining them.  I don’t remember their names, but if you read this — thank you!

sinks8

sinks11

Keep in mind that while the Sinks of Gandy are available to visitors, they are on private land with one entrance being owned by the Teter family and the other by the Tinglers.  The owners are fully aware that the Sinks draw attention from spelunkers and cave enthusiasts and generally do not mind people visiting, but please be respectful and do not damage their fences/gates or the natural landscape.   If you do decide to venture into the cave, be sure to have proper gear (flashlight, closed-toed or water shoes, and quick-dry clothing) and make sure you step carefully and watch your head as you walk.  It takes approximately 1 – 1.5 hours to venture through the cave and it would be a good idea to let others know your plans and when to expect you back, just in case there is an accident.  While inside, you may even come across a team of cave explorers (with wet suits and hard hats) like we did!

sinks5

sinks13

sinks12

For more information about the Sinks of Gandy, take a look at the websites below.  They certainly helped me when planning my route and are a valuable resource for anyone wanting to visit.
Spelunking the Sinks of Gandy
Virtual Bike Tour

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Note:  It will take you nearly one hour from the turnoff on Route 33/55 to get to the Sinks due to the partial gravel roads.  Alternatively, you can take Dry Fork Road/CR 40 off of  Whitmer Road/CR 29 to access the Sinks as well.  Both routes have the same ending place and you can make a loop if you choose by taking one road down and one road back.  However, we only traveled Whitmer Road/CR 29 so I cannot speak to the conditions of Dry Fork Road.

Advertisements

Zipping through the forest

Yesterday, I did something I never thought I would do.  Ever.  I’m scared of heights, am afraid of falling, and am not in the best shape.  But, it happened.  I went zip lining.

And I LOVED it.

Although we had plenty planned for Memorial Day weekend, zip lining was not on our list.  In fact, we didn’t have any plans for Monday aside from possibly going bike riding in Kanawha State Forest but even that wasn’t set in stone.  But then Thursday night, I was browsing Facebook and noticed that Adventures on the Gorge in Fayetteville had a special for Memorial Day only: a 2 for 1 deal where you basically buy one zip line ticket and get one free.  So of course, we couldn’t pass it up.

The hardest part was deciding which zip line to do: TreeTops Canopy Tour for $99 or Gravity for $109.  Both have high ratings and come with their own thrill, but you’re choosing between zipping from tree platform to tree platform (TreeTops) or mountain top to mountain top (Gravity).  There really is no wrong decision, but since Jon and I had never gone before, we chose to do TreeTops as it looked to be the milder choice between the two per my in-depth YouTube research.  And let me tell you — it was an excellent choice!

zip blog 1
TreeTops Canopy Tour consists of 10 zips, 5 cable bridges, and one rappel from the final platform which is approximately 35 feet up.  Along the way, you’ll be one with nature as you zip to and from tree platforms, over Mill Creek, and along the hills.  The entire tour will take 2.5 – 3 hours and you do need to be in moderate shape, as there is some hiking near the middle.  Contrastingly, the Gravity zip line course is open-air and offers more scenic views of the gorge and mountains.  On the longest zip, you’ll go 3,150 long (longer than the New River Gorge Bridge!) and upwards of 60mph.  The fastest you go on TreeTops is 40-45mph.  Cameras and a small backpack are allowed on both trips, but you must properly secure all your belongings.  I brought my digital camera and looped it around my harness while Jon had his phone in his folding shorts pocket.

For our trip, we chose the Noon departure of TreeTops and lucked out with two wonderful guides and a good group with 6 fellow zippers.  Most of us were a little nervous at first but after a quick practice run and two shorter zips to get the hang of it, we were (mostly) all pros.  It took some of us (ahem, me) a while to get the hang of braking properly but by the 4th or 5th zip, the training became second nature and the adrenaline took over.  For me, the scariest part was rappelling down the final platform.  I was terrified of that first step off the edge, but once I was caught in the weight of my harness, I was fine.  Perhaps rock climbing school will be our next adventure?  You never know.

zip blog 2
I know zip lining may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in trying, I highly recommend Adventures on the Gorge.  Their guides were knowledgeable, fun, energetic, and made sure that everyone felt comfortable no matter how nervous you were.  This was the first time I’d ever booked anything with AOTG but I can tell you that it won’t be my last (and I plan on coming back for Gravity!). I’m trying to talk Jon into booking a rafting trip for my birthday in a few weeks…. we’ll see how that goes.

As a bonus, I put together some clips for a short (1:34) YouTube video of some of our zips.  I am not a video editor but I know you’ll be dazzled by my skills:

Adventures on the Gorge is located just outside of Fayetteville, WV in the town of Lansing.  They are a year-round resort featuring cabins, restaurants, and activities that include white water rafting, zip lining, a timber-themed obstacle course, and much more.  For more information on zip lining at Adventures on the Gorge, check out their TreeTops Canopy Tour or Gravity Zip Line webpages.  Prices vary depending on the day and are cheaper mid-week.

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

Note: this review is not sponsored or endorsed by Adventures on the Gorge.  All thoughts expressed are my own and the trip was purchased with my own money.